Friday, January 15, 2021

Celebrating the Biden-Harris Inauguration with a Festive Breakfast

 

On Wednesday, January 20th at 9:00am PST the world changes. Biden-Harris will be inaugurated. We're eager to celebrate the change of administrations. 

As we all know, the Inauguration will be a smaller event because of the violence on Wednesday the 6th and the impact of the corona virus. Without the pageantry, we'll focus on the substance, on what is said and by whom.

Our east coast friends can enjoy the more substantial menu I posted with recipes for salmonfeta topped roast chicken or honey fried chicken and vegetable dishes.

For our early brunch, a Mimosa (champagne and orange juice) is good for a toast. For our breakfast, one-egg omelets, with customized fillings, or a hearty dish of an over-easy egg with sautéed mashed potatoes with crispy potato skins and onions, with sourdough toast and a few pieces of bacon.

For a sweet treat, I am going to make my favorite dessert, a fig tart with custard. There's a bit of work to create all the elements, but the result is delicious, perfect with a cup of hot tea or coffee.

Wishing everyone good health and good eating on everyday but especially on a day when so much will change for the better.

Have a great Inauguration!

Eggsellent - A One-Egg Omelet That's All About Flavor


What's for Breakfast? Mashed Potatoes, Eggs and Bacon


Figs Tart Up


Saturday, January 9, 2021

A Feast Made for an Inauguration

On January 20th, we want our friends and family to join us at our house to watch Joseph R. Biden and Kamala Harris take their oaths of office. But as with so many aspects of life, the pandemic has changed the way we share important moments.

Although we will be in our separate homes, we will be together watching the Inauguration in real time. Afterwards, to share our reactions, we'll log onto Zoom. During both, we'll enjoy favorite dishes and toast with a favorite drink.

I was asked to contribute recipes.

Here are the favorites I would have prepared if everyone had gathered at our home. For my wife and myself, I'll make just one dish, plus a drink for a toast.

If you want a recipe, click on the title/link.

Have a great Inauguration! Looking forward to a better future.

Chicken - brined, topped with feta and onions



Roast chicken is easy to prepare.  After pre-heating the oven and washing the chicken inside and outside, simply place on a roasting rack in a pan and bake breast side down, then breast side up. The feta and onion topped roast chicken recipe adds a few steps and ingredients to create a savory, delicious, festive meal. 


For the full recipe, please click on the above link.


Chicken - fried, topped with honey


A chef showed me this recipe and I have used it ever since. Compared with a roast chicken, fried chicken takes a bit more work. The same technique can be applied to fresh vegetables to make best-ever onion rings, asparagus, shiitake mushrooms and string beans.


With the onions, slice very thin and separate into rings. With shiitakes, cut each mushroom into two pieces before placing into buttermilk and then dredging in seasoned flour. Asparagus and string beans, boil 2 minutes in water, seasoned with Diamond Crystal kosher salt (1/2 teaspoon to 1 quart) before placing into buttermilk and dredging in seasoned flour. 


Or use salt boiled vegetables instead of fried for a contrast.


Use good quality canola oil and heat until a parsley leaf fries quickly but does not burn.


For the full recipe, please click on the above link.


Brown Sugar Roasted Salmon


A favorite of my wife, the salmon is seasoned twice. First by dry seasonings. Secondly with a sauce applied at the end of roasting. Depending on the thickness of the filet, the salmon cooks quickly, between 10-30 minutes. Delicious served hot or at room temperature.



For the full recipe, please click on the above link.


Salads & Vegetables - salt boiled, then roasted artichokes, carrot salad, chopped parsley salad with feta


Roasted artichokes can be served hot or at room temperature, seasoned with sea salt and black pepper. Several salads give you a variety to choose from. 


[Grilled+Artichokes.jpg]


For the full recipes, please click on the above link.


Sangria Fruit Salad



Easy-to-make and festive, by adding bite-sized bits of fresh fruit and serving with a small spoon, after you toast Biden-Harris, you can enjoy dessert.


For the full recipe, please click on the above link.


Chesney Hill's French 75 Cocktail


Chesney Hill is a go-to cocktail person. When I asked what she would serve to toast the Inauguration, she didn't hesitate. A classic French 75 Cocktail.


The satiny smooth drink packs a wallop so sip and enjoy. 


Made with gin (or vodka or even cognac), a sparkling wine (preferably champagne), simple syrup, lemon juice and a lemon peel twist. Shake with ice, serve and toast our new President and Vice President!


As with everything in life, using the best ingredients produces the best results. Use a quality spirit and champagne or sparkling wine.


Ingredients 


1 oz. gin (Chesney recommends Empress Gin)

3 oz. champagne or sparkling white wine

1/2 oz simple syrup (1 cup white sugar + 1 cup water, reserve what isn't used)

1/2 oz fresh lemon juice

Lemon peel twist to garnish


Directions


Making simple syrup is, well, simple. Place sugar into a small saucepan. Slowly add water. Turn the burner on low and do not stir or agitate. The sugar will slowly dissolve in the heated water. Do not allow to boil but do reduce the syrup by continuing to cook on the low flame 10 additional minutes after the sugar granules have disappeared. Cool and use, reserving the unneeded portion in an air tight container kept in the refrigerator. 


Place all ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake. Strain out the ice as you pour into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon peel twist.


Serve icy cold.

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Dumplings and Turkey Stew Make the Best Thanksgiving Left-Overs

We loved our Thanksgiving. Even though it was smaller than in other years. Five instead of twenty-five. Even thought it was outside on the patio where the fall leaves fell onto our plates instead of inside our warm and cozy house. We had time to have real conversations in an unhurried way. 

After the delights of Thanksgiving, then come the left-overs. Open faced sandwiches with turkey and turkey liver pate. Turkey soup made from the stock of Thanksgiving's bones and bits. And, my favorite, dumplings and turkey stew. The absolute best comfort food. 


The basics are straightforward. Cooked turkey meat. A handful of favorite vegetables. A cup of white flour. A bit of half and half. A cube of butter. Homemade turkey stock. A few seasonings.


Simmer. Cover. Uncover and serve! Easy and delicious.

Farm-to-Table Vegetables, Turkey and Dumplings

Use a good quality organic turkey and buy farmers market produce when available. 

If you have dried whole shiitake mushrooms, use them. They add a distinctive flavor, different from the delicate flavor of thinly sliced shiitakes.

Use vegetables you love. And lots of them. English peas. Squash rounds. Kabocha chunks. Roasted sweet potatoes. Green beans. Kale. Shredded cabbage. Chopped turnips. My preference is to tilt the balance towards the fresh produce, plating great mounds of vegetables with a leg and a wing or two pieces of breast.

The dish can be covered and served the next day or divided into smaller covered containers and frozen for up to three months.



Yield: 4 servings

Time to prep: 15 minutes (if you already have turkey stock) or 1 hour (including time to make turkey stock)

Time to cook: 30 minutes

Total time: 45 minutes - 1 hour 30 minutes

Ingredients

4 cups cooked turkey meat, cut into quarter sized pieces, no bones
1 medium yellow onion, washed, ends trimmed, outer skin removed, cut into 1/2" pieces
1 cup green beans, washed, ends removed, cut into 1" long pieces
1 cup broccoli florets, washed and cut into 1" pieces or broccoli leaves, washed, shredded
2 cups shiitake mushrooms, washed, stem end trimmed, thinly sliced or 2 cups dried whole shiitake mushrooms, washed
1/4 cup Italian parsley, leaves only, washed, finely chopped
1 garlic, peeled, finely chopped (optional)
1/2 cup celery, washed, ends trimmed, cut into 1/2" pieces (optional)
4 cups homemade turkey stock, as described below
1 large carrot, washed, trimmed, peeled, cut into 1/2" thick rounds
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
Pinch freshly ground black pepper
Pinch cayenne powder (optional)


Dumpling ingredients

1 cup all-purpose flour, white
2 tablespoons sweet (unsalted) butter, cut into fine bits
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
Pinch freshly ground black pepper
1 scallion, washed, ends trimmed, green and white parts finely chopped or 2 tablespoons Italian parsley, leaves only, washed, finely chopped (optional)
1/2-1/3 cup half and half, cream or whole milk


Directions

The turkey stock cooks as we're enjoying Thanksgiving dinner. As I carve, I put the bones and carcass into a large pot. Cover with water plus four more cups and simmer covered for 45 minutes. Strain through a colander, reserving liquid in a bowl. Let the carcass cool and remove the meat.

Use what stock is needed for the dish, reserving the rest covered in the refrigerator for up to three days or in the freezer for up to six months. The meat pulled off the carcass can be added to the braise or submerged in stock and frozen for later use.


In a mixing bowl, add flour, cut up butter, scallion (or Italian parsley), baking soda, sea salt and black pepper. Using a fork, mix well. Slowly add milk, stirring until thickened. The resulting mixture should be like thick batter. If the mixture is too runny, add a tablespoon of flour. Cover and set aside.


In a large pot, heat olive oil and sauté onions and garlic (optional) with oil until softened. Add cooked turkey and vegetables. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add turkey stock.  Stir and simmer 20 minutes.


To make the dumplings, use two soup spoons to create small rounds of dough. Drop each dumpling into the simmering liquid. Make room for each dumpling so they do not touch because they will expand as they cook. Use all the dumplings batter and cover.

Adjust the heat so the stock simmers but does not boil.

Cook 30 minutes and serve immediately. Place several dumplings into each bowl, adding a protein and a good helping of vegetables with several tablespoons of sauce.

Serve hot.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Thanksgiving's Best Appetizer: Turkey Liver Pâté

Usually we order a twenty pound turkey to feed the twenty to twenty-five friends and family who gather at our home for Thanksgiving.


In this 2020-COVID year, we only need a twelve pound turkey for the five of us. That will leave us a good supply of left-overs that we can turn into turkey stew with dumplings, turkey salad and turkey sandwiches. With the bones we can make several quarts of turkey stock to freeze in pint-sized containers to use during the winter when we crave comfort-food turkey soup with vegetables.


With a smaller guest list finalized and our favorite recipes organized, there is only one unanswered question: what to do with the turkey liver?
Even people who love chicken livers view turkey liver as too much of a good thing.
Whoever has the job of prepping the turkey on Thanksgiving Day frequently looks with bewilderment at the large double-lobed liver in the bag tucked ever so neatly inside the turkey.
Following my mother’s lead, my solution is to turn lemons into lemonade or, in this case, turkey liver into pâté.
My mother prepared chicken chopped liver using a shallow wooden bowl and a beat-up, double-handled, single-bladed mezzaluna knife that her mother had given her.
She would cut up and sauté the liver with a chopped up onion. Two eggs would go into boiling water. Once hard-boiled, they would join the sautéed liver and onion in the wooden bowl, which she would hand to me along with the mezzaluna.
While she prepared the chicken, she put me to work.
As a 9-year-old, I would sit on a stool with the wooden bowl on my lap, rocking the mezzaluna back and forth, chopping up the livers and hard-boiled eggs.
Periodically my mother would check on my progress and, when everything was reduced to a fine chop, she would retrieve the bowl, add melted chicken fat and mix everything together.
Just before our guests arrived, she transferred the chopped liver to a serving bowl and put it on the dining room table with a plate of saltines and the other appetizers, a platter of black pitted olives, whole radishes and vegetable crudités.

I have adapted her recipe to use turkey liver. The result is the same. A creamy, tasty, fat-satisfying umami flavor.

Mushroom and Turkey Liver Pâté

My mother liked her chopped liver rustic style. It is a matter of taste, but I prefer turkey liver when it is made with a food processor, creating a smooth pâté.
To balance the richness of the liver, the pâté needs sweetness (caramelized onions), saltiness (sea salt), heat (black pepper) and earthiness (hard-boiled egg and mushrooms).
Serves 8
Ingredients
1 turkey liver, approximately ½ cup

2 fresh, large eggs

2 medium yellow onions, ends and peel removed, washed, roughly chopped

2 cups mushrooms, brown, shiitake or portabella, washed, roughly chopped

¼ cup Italian parsley, washed, leaves only, roughly chopped

2 garlic cloves, skins removed, washed, finely chopped (optional)

2 tablespoons sweet butter

¼ cup olive oil

sea salt and black pepper
Directions
  1. Wash the uncooked liver and pat dry. Using a sharp paring knife, remove and discard all fat and membranes. Cut liver into half-dollar-sized pieces.
  2. Place the eggs into a pot of boiling water. Cook 10 minutes, remove from water, let soak in cold water to cool, remove and discard shells.
  3. In a large sauté pan over a medium flame, melt the butter and lightly brown the onions, mushrooms, parsley and garlic. Add the pieces of turkey liver and sauté until lightly brown being careful not to overcook the liver, which should be pink inside. Season with sea salt and black pepper.
  4. Using a rubber spatula, scrape the sautéed liver and vegetables into a large food processor, add the hard-boiled eggs and pulse. Slowly add olive oil, a little at a time. Use the rubber spatula to push any accumulation off the sides of the mixing bowl.
  5. Continue pulsing and adding small amounts of olive oil until the pate is creamy. Depending on the size of the turkey liver, you might use more or less of the olive oil. Taste and adjust the seasoning with sea salt and pepper.
  6. Use the spatula to transfer the pâté from the food processor to a serving bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. The pâté can be kept in the refrigerator 1-2 days.
  7. Before serving, take the pâté out of the refrigerator, place on the counter out of the sun and allow to come to room temperature. Serve with crackers, toast points, fresh sourdough or French bread.
Variations
  • Instead of Italian parsley, use 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves.
  • For a denser pâté, use 1 hard-boiled egg instead of 2.
  • Add ¼ teaspoon cayenne powder to the sauté for heat.
  • Add 1 slice bacon, finely chopped to the sauté and brown until crisp.
  • Add 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar to the sauté.
  • Sprinkle 2 tablespoons red onion or scallions, finely chopped, over the pâté just before serving.

 
 

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Thanksgiving 2020 in the Time of Covid - Making Pickles

My mother loved Thanksgiving.

For her, Thanksgiving brought together friends and family in a celebration of life and food.  I came to share that love as my own family grew. 

The happy ritual for my wife and myself is everyone gathers early at 3PM so we can enjoy the light at the end of the day. Our small house fills with the musical rhythm of the front door opening and familiar voices greeting us as they add their dishes to the feast or flowers to brighten the dining room. 

While my wife keeps the group refreshed with beverages and appetizers, I am focused in the kitchen. Putting dishes in and out of the Wolf stove's large oven. Prepping salads and putting the finishing touches on the desserts. 

The main event is, of course, the turkey. Usually twenty-four pounds so I can send our sons to their homes with several days' worth of left-overs. 


All too often, I would have visitors in our closet-sized kitchen. I appreciated their desire to keep me company, but in such a small space and such a large menu, I'm best left to myself so I can pull baking trays from the hot oven without burning them or myself, sauté string beans with almonds in a giant carbon steel pan and stir the shiitake mushroom/pan drippings gravy. 


We loved how our home was filled with a friendly clamor as people caught up on the latest personal news, laughed and clinked glasses to celebrate what is best about our lives. That was what my mother loved and we did too.

But, as they say, that was then. This is 2020 and Thanksgiving will still be a good time to be thankful for all that we have but it will certainly be different.

We will keep COVID-distant and respect the need to have a smaller group. Instead of twenty we will have five. At the beginning of the meal, we will place a Zoom call and gather with my wife's mother in New Jersey and our sons who are our of town having a holiday together.  We will stay connected, even though we are apart.

With our friends, we will have our meal outside on the patio. I will finally have the kitchen to myself. But I look forward to next year when COVID is behind us and we can gather again as my mother would want, in a house full of family and friends, sharing stories about the year and being thankful for what is best in life.

In the meantime, in this and several posts, I will reprise favorite recipes. 

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and a safe New Year. 

Homemade Pickles

Pickles are delicious anytime of the year. For Thanksgiving they are especially good. Their crunch and acidity counterbalances the deliciousness of gravy, mashed potatoes and roast turkey. 


For Thanksgiving I always make two kinds of pickles. Kosher dill pickles and Moroccan-style pickled vegetables. Kosher dills should be made a few days before served. Moroccan-style pickled vegetables should be made two weeks ahead. They will keep, sealed in a jar, refrigerated for as long as a year.


No doubt the people who made the first pickles thought they had made a mistake. Somebody accidentally forgot about some raw vegetables in a pot with an acid and salt. Surprise, surprise. A week later, the vegetables weren’t moldy, no bugs had eaten them and, deliciously, they had a nice crunch and tang. Thus was born, the pickle!

In the 1920s, my great-grandfather made pickles on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Grandmother Caroline used to tell stories about working in their little grocery store as a child. When customers would want pickles, she would hop off the counter and go out front to the pickle barrels and fish out the ones they wanted.

I never knew her parents. I never ate their pickles, but I must have brine in my veins because wherever I travel, I am always on the look out for pickles.


Moroccan pickled veggies

In Morocco at a cooking class in Marrakech at La Maison Arabe, Amaggie Wafa and Ayada Benijei taught us to make Berber bread, couscous with chicken and vegetables, chicken tagine with preserved lemons and clarified butter, tomato marmalade, eggplant-tomato salad and preserved vegetables.
The cooking class lasted four hours. The time it took to show us how to make preserved or pickled vegetables: five minutes.
To Wafa and Benijei, the process was so easy, there were no pickle recipes. A little of this, a little of that, throw the vegetables into a jar, shake it up, put it in a cupboard and in a week, voila, you have pickles.

Pickle recipes tip from Grandma

From my grandmother I learned that making kosher dill pickles was a little more complicated. In retrospect, I think that’s because pickling cukes are more prone to decay than are the carrots, parsnip, fennel and green beans used in Morocco.
Every Thanksgiving I make both.
Pickles are very personal. What one person loves might be too salty or vinegary to another. It may take you several tries before you settle on the mix of salt, vinegar and spices that suits your palate.

Garlic is usually added to brine. My grandmother didn't put garlic in hers and I don't put any in mine so I indicated garlic as optional.

Lower East Side Kosher Dill Pickles

When making kosher dill pickles keep in mind four very important steps:
1. Select pickling cukes, not salad cucumbers, and pick ones without blemishes or soft spots.
2. Taste the brine to confirm you like the balance of salt-to-vinegar. The flavor of the brine will approximate the flavor of the pickles.
3. Once the cukes are in the brine, they must be kept submerged in an open container.
4. When the pickles have achieved the degree of pickling you like, which could take three days to a week, store the pickles in the brine, seal and keep in a refrigerator where they will last for several weeks.
Ingredients
8 cups water
¼ cup kosher salt
1 cup white wine vinegar or yellow Iranian vinegar (my preference)
4 garlic cloves, skin removed, root end trimmed off, cut into thin strips (optional)
5 dried bay leaves
10 whole black peppercorns
10 whole mustard seeds
¼ teaspoon pepper flakes or 1 dried Sichuan pepper, split open
5 sprigs of fresh dill
5 pounds small pickling cucumbers, washed, stems removed, dried
Directions
1. In a non-reactive pot, heat the water and vinegar on a medium flame. When the water gently simmers, add the salt and stir to dissolve. Do not allow the water to boil.
2. Dip your finger in the brine, taste and adjust the flavor with a bit more salt, water or vinegar.
3. Place the garlic and spices in the bottom of a gallon glass or plastic container. Arrange the cucumbers inside.
4. Pour in the hot brine being careful to cover the cucumbers. Reserve 1 cup of brine.
5. To keep the cucumbers submerged in the brine, find a plastic cup that is not as wide as the mouth of the container. Place the reserved cup of brine into the plastic cup and put into the container to press down on the cucumbers.
6. Place the container in a dark, cool corner of the kitchen. Check daily to make sure the cucumbers are submerged. If the brine evaporates, use the reserved brine in the plastic cup, replenishing the liquid in the cup with water to weigh down the cukes.
7. After three days, remove one cucumber and sample. If you like your pickles crisp, that may be enough time. If they aren’t pickled enough for you, let them stay on the counter another few days.
8. When you like how they taste, remove the cup and seal the top. Refrigerate the container.

Moroccan Style Preserved Vegetables

In Morocco, virtually any vegetable can be preserved. In the class, we were shown green beans, fennel, parsnips and carrots. Experiment and see what you like, including asparagus, zucchini, beets, daikon, eggplant, daikon and broccoli.



For myself, over the years I have settled on onions, carrots, cauliflower florets and green cabbage. Recently I have been making celery hearts because every morning my wife juices a celery stalk to begin her day with a glass of healthy celery juice. That  makes me the beneficiary of a great many celery hearts, which I am making into delicious pickles. 
Whatever you try, prepare the vegetable by washing, peeling and cutting them into pieces similar in size, about a 1/4" except with the celery hearts. I leave the bottom of the hearts so they pickle as a stalk.
The fun thing about pickling is you can personalize your pickles, making them any way you like.

Save the pickling brine. It is delicious poured over warm Japanese rice or mixed with olive oil to make a salad dressing.
Ingredients
2 whole carrots, ends trimmed, washed, peeled, cut into rounds, ¼-inch thick

2 celery hearts, root end trimmed

1 medium yellow onion, washed, root and stem ends removed, peeled, sliced lengthwise (root to stem) 1/4" slices
1 small whole green cabbage, washed, any brown outer leaves removed and discarded, cut in half, cut out core and reserve for soup, cut into 1/4" squares

1 small white cauliflower, washed, leaves removed (instructions below)
4 bay leaves
½ teaspoon black peppercorns
¼ teaspoon pepper flakes or 1 dried Sichuan pepper, split open, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 garlic clove, skin removed, root end trimmed off, cut into thin strips (optional)
3 tablespoons kosher salt
1½ cups white wine or yellow Iranian vinegar
2 cups water
1 tablespoon olive oil
Directions
1. Sterilize two quart-sized glass or plastic containers.

2. Finalize the prep on the cauliflower by using a sharp pairing knife to create 1" long florets about 1/4" thick. Use the remaining stems for a stir fry or soup.


3. Toss the vegetables together to mix well in a large bowl.

4. Place the mixed vegetables into the two jars.

5. Add equal amounts of the aromatics to each jar.
6. Combine the kosher salt, water and vinegar. Mix well. Taste. If you find the mixture too acidic, slowly add water until you like the flavor. If not salty enough, add a small amount of kosher salt
7. Pour the water-vinegar mixture into the jars, making sure the liquid covers the vegetables. If more liquid is needed, make more brine and reserve any left over.

8. Top off each jar with equal amounts of olive oil.
9. Seal the jars and shake well to dissolve the salt and mix the aromatics.
10. Refrigerate. Wait one week and taste. Wait longer if they aren’t pickled enough. They will keep in the refrigerator for months.

     

Monday, October 26, 2020

To Make a Sweeter Balsamic Vinegar, Heat and Reduce

Transform ordinary balsamic vinegar into thicker, slightly sweet reduced balsamic to make a best-ever salad dressing. 

Reduction is a simple and effective way to increase flavor by reducing the water content of a liquid using heat or evaporation.



Reduction transforms inexpensive balsamic vinegar into an extraordinary sauce. At a restaurant supply store like Smart and Final, 5 liters of Italian balsamic vinegar sells for under $20.00. 5 liters will make 40 ounces of reduced balsamic, enough for a hundred servings.

Reduced Balsamic Vinegar

Like vinegar in general, reduced balsamic does not need refrigeration and will last indefinitely.

To make an oil and vinegar salad dressing, combine 1 teaspoon of reduced balsamic with 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil. Mix well and drizzle over tossed lettuce, tomatoes and burrata or chopped Italian parsley and feta.

Time to prepare: 10-15 minutes or 10-15 hours depending on the amount of vinegar being reduced

Ingredients:

1/4 cup Italian balsamic vinegar to make a single serving or 1 large 5 liter bottle to make 40 ounces


Directions:

For an individual serving, pour 1/4 cup of vinegar into a small saucepan and heat over a slow flame. That will take 10-15 minutes and make about a tablespoon. Let cool and mix with olive oil to use as a salad dressing to serve 4. 

To make a larger quantity, pour the 5 liters of balsamic vinegar into a large pot. Open the kitchen windows and heat the vinegar. Be careful to keep the flame on low.  A gentle simmer is good.

As the volume of vinegar reduces, adjust the flame to avoid boiling, which creates an unpleasant flavor.

5 liters of vinegar will take 8-10 hours to reduce to 20% of the original volume.  Use a small spoon to taste the vinegar. When thickened, the balsamic has a slightly sweet flavor. Roughly speaking, 5 liters will make 40 ounces of reduced balsamic.

If the balsamic reduces too much and is too syrupy, add a cup of water, stir well and heat. Add more water until you have the consistency you enjoy.

Use a funnel to fill plastic squeeze bottles. I prefer a 4 ounce bottle for easy handling. 5 liters of balsamic vinegar will make nine to ten 4 ounce bottles.

As the balsamic reduces, sometimes, a film or solids might develop. If so, wet a piece of cheese cloth and put it inside a funnel placed into a squeeze bottle. Pour the reduced balsamic through the cheese cloth and fill the squeeze bottles. When all the bottles are filled, squeeze the cheese cloth so you capture all of the balsamic. Rinse clean and dry the cheese cloth.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Shrimp 101: Easy to Prepare and Delicious

 Shrimp are easy to prepare, nutritious and low in fat. Adaptable with many sauces and preparations, their versatility makes them an ideal ingredient in appetizers, soups and main courses. 


To document a meal I made for dinner, I posted a video of shrimps charring on a stove top grill. A friend followed my visual directions but was disappointed with the result. The shrimp were not tasty in the way she expected.

She asked for suggestions. I had a few.

Where to buy shrimp and which shrimp to buy

First off, finding good shrimp isn’t easy. After years of hit or miss sources (sometimes even the most expensive fish market/upscale grocery store would have shrimp that were fresh and sometimes not so fresh), I found a good shrimp in Los Angeles at Ralph’s Market/owned by Krogers.

You probably already know this but always buy shrimp in the shell. If you can find “Ez-Peel” shrimp, that’s good because the back of the shrimp’s shell has already been cut and the back vein already (mostly) removed.

As to size, I prefer medium (31/35 per lb.) sized shrimp. The shrimp at Ralph's are farm raised. Their texture and flavor are very good. Wild shrimp will cost more. When buying from a new-to-you vendor, try different sizes, farmed and fresh shrimp to find what you like. 

When you get the shrimp home, you can peel them or not but rinse them in clean water and refrigerate in an air-tight container.  Use them within 1-2 days. 

When you’re ready to cook them, rinse again. if the shrimp are Ez-Peel, remove the shells with your fingers. If not, run a sharp pairing knife down the back of each shrimp to remove the shells. 

My mother, who lived in Costa Rica and ate a lot of rice there, taught me to put the shells into a small saucepan, cover with water, simmer and strain and save the broth to use in soups and sauces. Very tasty.

Wash the peeled shrimp and remove the black vein that runs along the back.


Rinse again. Now they are ready to cook. Cooking shrimp is very easy. The trick is they cook very quickly.

Salt boiling shrimp

If you want shrimp for a shrimp cocktail or in a salad, heat water in a small saucepan. Use enough water to cover by 1” the amount of shrimp. 

Boil the water. Add a pinch of kosher salt (only kosher salt made by Diamond Crystal because they don’t use additives) or sea salt. 

Add the shrimp. They will cook quickly. Within 20-30 SECONDS. 

Drain and cool by putting ice cubes with the shrimp. Drain. Serve cold or at room temperature or refrigerate in an airtight container.

Grilling or sautéing shrimp

Toss the peeled and deveined shrimp in a bowl with olive oil, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. 

Using a grill or sautéed pan (cast iron or carbon steel is preferred), place the shrimp individually onto the hot surface. Using tongs, turn them within 5-10 seconds. Cook briefly on each side and remove. 


The grill I use is a stove-top grill that does a great job with easy clean up. And, it is very inexpensive. Here’s a link to the grill on Amazon. 

Grilled shrimp can be served with a chopped vegetable salad (as in the video) or as an appetizer with a cocktail or remoulade sauce.

Shrimp with sauce

Shrimp can be served with any number of cold or heated sauces. My favorite cocktail sauce is a classic. Catsup, lemon juice, capers, grated horseradish and Worcester sauce on the side and Saltine crackers. 

When adding shrimp to curry or a Mexican garlic sauce, add the shrimp just before serving remembering to cook them for only a minute or two to keep them juicy.